The improvised explosive device (IED) found Monday was meant to be detonated at the Rizal Park in Luneta, Manila, but mercifully, the suspected bomber had a change of mind and placed it inside the trash bin along Roxas Boulevard near the United States Embassy.
After the bomb had been found, another suspect tried to detonate it using his mobile phone, but fortunately, it failed to trigger the device.
Police moved quickly and tracked the number used by the other suspect. They arrested Jiaher Guinar in Caloocan City.
Messages in Guinar’s phone helped police arrest the man who carried the bomb. Rashid Kilala was nabbed in Bulacan.
“Parang na-konsensya siya according to him kaya itinapon na lang niya sa basurahan along Roxas Boulevard,” said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa in a press briefing yesterday.
Dela Rosa said three more suspects, who helped bring the bomb from Mindanao to Manila, are also being hunted.
“We have already identified them. One of them happens to be a BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” said Dela Rosa.
“But based on our information, two of them might have already rejoined the Maute Group because while they were here in Manila, they were tasked to go back because the military was already starting to attack their camp,” he added.
Dela Rosa had tagged the Maute Group as responsible for the foiled bomb attack.
Luneta was picked as a target because the Maute Group wanted to inflict heavy casualties in its bid to be recognized by the international terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to the PNP chief.
“They want to be recognized by ISIS, they are allied with ISIS and if they were able to detonate bombs with big casualties, they are hoping that they are recognized, be accepted as members of ISIS,” said Dela Rosa.
The Maute Group is an armed Islamist group whose leaders are former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The group is founded by Abdullah Maute and is based in Lanao del Sur.
The group was held responsible for the Davao City night market explosion that killed 14 people and wounded more than 70 others.
Dela Rosa said the Maute Group is desperate for ISIS recognition.
“They (Maute) want to be recognized because they want foreign support. ISIS has a lot of money because they control some areas with rich oil supply. If they are not recognized by the ISIS, then they will have no foreign funding,” he said.
With the arrest of the two bomb suspects and the identification of three other suspects, Dela Rosa said it would be difficult for Maute Group to send another team for a bombing mission.
However, Dela Rosa said Metro Manila remains in the highest security alert status while the country is at Level 3 terror alert nationwide.
He said the public should expect more conduct of checkpoints and raids on suspected lairs of terror groups in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
“I have already given my RDs (regional directors) the go-signal to conduct strong, random and mobile checkpoints across the country,” said dela Rosa.